Eating vegetables that naturally contain nicotine, such as peppers and
tomatoes, may reduce your risk of developing Parkinson's disease, according to a
Previous research has found that smoking and other types of tobacco use are
associated with a lower risk of developing Parkinson's disease, and it is
believed that nicotine provides the protective effect. Tobacco belongs to a
plant family called Solanaceae and some plants in this family are
edible sources of nicotine.
This new study included nearly 500 people who were newly diagnosed with
Parkinson's and another 650 unrelated people who did not have the neurological
disorder, which is typically marked by tremors and other movement problems. The
study participants provided information about their tobacco use and diets.
In general, vegetable consumption had no effect on Parkinson's risk. The more
vegetables from the Solanaceae plant family that people ate, however,
the lower their risk of Parkinson's disease. This association was strongest for
peppers, according to the study, which was published May 9 in the journal
Annals of Neurology.
The apparent protection offered by Solanaceae vegetables occurred
mainly in people with little or no prior use of tobacco, which contains much
more nicotine than the foods included in the study.
"Our study is the first to investigate dietary nicotine and risk of
developing Parkinson's disease," Dr Susan Searles Nielsen, of the University of
Washington in Seattle, said in a journal news release.
"Similar to the many studies that indicate tobacco use might reduce risk of
Parkinson's, our findings also suggest a protective effect from nicotine, or
perhaps a similar but less toxic chemical in peppers and tobacco."
Nicotine skin patch
Nielsen and her colleagues recommended further studies to confirm and extend
their findings, which could lead to ways to prevent Parkinson's disease.
Although the study found an association between consumption of certain
nicotine-containing foods and lower risk of Parkinson's, it could not prove a
Still, one Parkinson's expert called the study "intriguing".
"It provides further evidence of how diet can influence our susceptibility to
neurological disease - specifically Parkinson's disease," said Dr Kelly
Changizi, co-director of the Center for Neuromodulation at the Mount Sinai
Parkinson and Movement Disorders Center in New York City.
"Patients often ask what role nutrition plays in their disease, so it's very
interesting that nicotine in vegetables such as peppers may be
Another expert said more research into the role of nicotine in Parkinson's
disease is already underway.
"The observation that cigarette smokers have a reduced risk for Parkinson's
disease has long been known, and has raised the idea that nicotine may reduce
the risk for [the illness]," said Dr Andrew Feigin, who is investigating the
illness at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, NY.
"A nicotine skin patch is currently being tested in patients with early
Parkinson's disease," he said.
The illness occurs due to a loss of brain cells that produce a chemical
messenger called dopamine. The symptoms of the disease include loss of balance,
slower movement and tremors and stiffness in the face and limbs. There is
currently no cure for the disorder. Nearly 1 million Americans - and 10 million
people worldwide - have Parkinson's, according to the Parkinson's Disease
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